Egyptian Cruise Sailing Season All But Over

August 19, 2013
Update, 8:55 a.m. EDT: Both the United Kingdom and Germany have expanded their travel warnings to include all of Egypt, including the Red Sea resort areas.

(August 16, 2:15 p.m. EDT) -- The 2013 Egypt cruise season took another hit Wednesday when a government crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters left more than 600 people dead. Several hundred more have been killed since then. The shocking rise in violence led to a new U.S. Department of State travel warning Thursday telling U.S. citizens to defer travel to all of Egypt. Virtually every cruise line has canceled most, if not all of their 2013 Egyptian port calls and Nile River sailings.

The future for Egypt as a cruise destination is not looking bright.

"There has been too much instability in Egypt for some guests to travel to Egypt," Guy Young, president of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, told Cruise Critic, adding the line, which canceled all remaining 2013 Nile River sailings, has yet to release a program for 2014.

"It makes no sense for us to market Egypt and operate itineraries in the current heightened levels of tension and violence."

There is still some little hope for the overall Egypt season, which typically runs from early fall through most of winter. Though most lines have canceled their entire 2013/14 seasons, a few have not made any 2014 decisions yet.

Seabourn Legend, for instance, is still scheduled to call on a handful of Egyptian ports in April 2014. A spokesman for the line said they are continuing to monitor the situation but no decision to cancel those calls has yet been made.

And Avalon Waterways continues to sell passage on its October to December 2013 and 2014 Nile River cruises.

"We continue to work closely with our operations team in Egypt to monitor the situation, including assessing future Egypt cruise departures taking place after September. We will make any and all adjustments or cancellations necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our travelers," a spokeswoman for the line said.

Viking River Cruises, also, has not yet canceled all of its 2013 Nile cruises, with November and December sailings still open for booking.

"We are seeing limited cancellations from passengers on later dates, but we have not announced any changes to departures beyond October," a spokeswoman said.

The problems for Egypt cruises began in 2011 with the uprising against then president Hosni Mubarak. Numerous port calls were canceled, but cruises began calling again in 2012 when it seemed hostilities had settled after country's first democratic election. But clashes between secular and religious Egyptians continued through 2012 and early 2013, occasionally necessitating more port cancellations. Violence flared again this summer when president Mohammed Morsi was forcibly removed from office and has not quieted down since.

"Since the uprising in early 2011, we have never really been able to regain our momentum," Young said, referring to the early success of their River Tosca boat built specifically for the Nile in 2009. "While we did operate some cruises in 2012 and 2013 the number of guests that we have in Egypt has declined steadily and significantly over the last two years."

Though Egypt's 2013/14 season is all but over, Young does not discount Egypt as an important destination in the future. "When stability returns to Egypt we are committed to marketing and rebuilding our business to this beautiful and fascinating country."

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor